In recent years, Kenya has witnessed an increased debate over land issues, with several land disputes reported from across the country.
From alleged illegal encroachment to unresolved boundary disputes and unending land grabbing cases, the situation is alarming. Clearly, the main cause behind these escalating land disputes is corruption.
As with several African countries, rampant corruption in the public institutions is a major sticking point and Kenya is struggling to stamp out the vice. Despite the recent efforts to eliminate corruption from the halls of government, bribery is still rife, particularly in the land sector.
A recent report by Kenya’s anti-graft body, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) highlighted the Lands Ministry as one of the most corrupt government institutions. This corruption takes many forms — bribery or illicit land transactions is just one example. Besides, local powerful elites are also more likely to manipulate weak land governance systems to serve their interests at the expense of the public.
The EACC report also highlights an 11.9 percent increase in Kenyans who pay bribes to obtain government services.
According to Transparency International, globally, one in five persons has paid a bribe for a land service. In Africa, every second, a client of a land administration service has paid a bribe.
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Land administration in Kenya
Land administration encompasses the registration of land deeds in any geographical location of a governing body. In Kenya, the Lands Ministry maintains these records. But the registration of land records does not authenticate ‘land title’, and this often results in title disputes and litigation.
This also explains why there has been an increase in complaints of irregularities and corruption in updating of land records. Furthermore, there is a huge number of examples across Kenya where land has been grabbed by forging records.
If you wanted to buy or sell land in Kenya today, the process would typically go like this: You both meet at the registration office, share the physical documents in the presence of Registrar, and complete the land registration. Most of the transactions happen through the exchange and verification of physical copies.
With this land registration system, the following major issues arise in Kenya.
- Unclear Land titles, leading to huge GDP lost
- Duplicate Land records
- Land records are maintained in silos, updating and verifying the records is a challenge
- Poor recording keeping, most of the time stakeholders dealing with inaccurate data
- Multiple Land Web Portals and no of them provide a single source of truth
The above facts point to the need for the government of Kenya to develop a secure, tamper-proof, paperless and long-lasting solution to manage land administration and land records. And the only solution ideal for this purpose is blockchain distributed ledger.
Blockchain for land administration
Why blockchain? Blockchain, the underlying technology behind bitcoin, offers transparency and accountability in the administration of land. The technology can help Kenya and many African countries to improve governance in land administration as part of efforts to eliminate corruption in the land sector.
A blockchain-based land administration system would ensure that all records of land transactions such as title deeds and ownership are documented in an autonomous, secure and efficient manner. The public distributed ledger system reduces fraud and manipulation of land records thanks to its tamper-proof and immutable features. It also provides a unified land management system that removes the bureaucratic silos and helps in driving greater efficiency.
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Moreover, putting land records on the blockchain establishes transparency by disintermediating people that are vulnerable to falling prey to corrupt practices. The next steps might be to incorporate smart contracts into land management to facilitate real estate processes such as property sales, transfers of ownership, rental agreements and mortgages.
It should be noted that one of the key recommendations of the Bitange Ndemo-led blockchain and AI report was that Kenya should deploy blockchain in lands administration. But that is yet to be implemented.
Purging corruption in the land sector is an initiative the government of Kenya must take seriously to restore citizen’s confidence. With blockchain, the country has a perfect solution to help fight and stamp out corruption within the public service.
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